Sunday, June 24, 2012

Panama Canal Crossing

Panama Canal: The crossing

After much ado tramping around Balboa , provisioning, consulting with Rogelio the canal admeasurer, Roy the agent for visas, cruising permits, line handlers and pilot, filling out forms,  the big day, and the culmination the Pacific phase of our voyage, has arrived at last. We began with the inevitable schedule delays, as we were bumped back an hour or so to a 9am start. Eventually the three line handlers, Edgar, Omar, and Louis, and pilot/advisor Guillarmo, came aboard, and we were off to MiraFlores, the first set of three locks. The 'muchachos' were three very good-natured and well-mannered lads. Edgar, the youngest,  a quiet and rather chunky young man of 20, spoke no English, and Omar, a tall and athletic soccer player , 23 years of age, spoke little but understood everything. Louis, Roy's younger brother (our advisor),
stood 6 ft 4", had a  most imposing stature and presence. He was a jovial chap who kept the boys entertained , laughing, teasing and back-slapping them, loudly in Spanish. These boys could eat!
I spent most of the day captive in an insufferably hot galley, cooking and serving drinks to my beefy crew of five grateful males.
     The first set of locks went smoothly, as we tied alongside Tension Reliever, and in front of a monster super-tanker, to await the flooding of the locks. We stayed rafted together as we went through the series of lock chambers. By the time we hit the second set of Locks at Pedro Miguel it was becoming obvious we were not going to make the crossing in one day.
      This meant an overnight stay in Gatun Lake anchorage.  We tied up to an enormous mooring buoy 5 feet wide, with our buddy boat on the other side, a rather precarious operation, as we watched Omar hop off an onto the swaying buoy tying off our lines.  There we spent a long, sweltering night with everyone stretched out like lounging sea lions around the cabin and cockpit.  Next afternoon after numerous postponements and what were becoming increasingly cramped quarters, we finally set off with our new advisor pilot Armado for the Gatun Locks at Colon.
      Once again  we tied off to Tension Reliever who also tied to a 100 ft. power, tour boat, and waited for the waters to recede. This time we had to disengage for each lock chamber which made for some tricky manouvering in the turbulent lock waters. After the third lock the gates opened and we gazed out on the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Mission Accomplished!
      Now we will spend a couple of days at Shelter Bay Marina (Colon), wash the boat, provision, bask poolside, and prepare for our next destination,Portobello and the San Blas Islands. This is our last cruising ground prior to leaving for Cartagena, Columbia where we plan to leave Chantey V during our three month visit back to Victoria.

Portobello, Panama
    The bay of Portobello was 'discovered' by Christopher Columbus on Nov. 2nd, 1502 during his 4th trip to Central America. The striking beauty of the sleepy little cove, with its' 15th century Spanish fortress ruins, gives the town its' name;  'Bello'! Pirates have descended on this tiny village on the Spanish Main numerous times over the years. Most notably by Francis Drake, and the notorious British privateer, Henry Morgan.  Henry snuck up on the garrison  stationed at the fort and sacked the town for gold, carting the loot back to Britain in the 1500's. All that remains are the picturesque, rugged stone walls and turrets, looking out on the now serene Atlantic waters. The pirate flag still flies at Jack's Bar, a local cruiser and backpacker hangout. The only remnant of Henry Morgan is a potent bottle of amber rum I spied behind the bar. 

No comments:

Post a Comment